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THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER movie review

THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER is directed by Taika Waititi. The film stars Chris Hemsworth, Christian Bale, Tessa Thompson, Jaimie Alexander, Taika Waititi, Russell Crowe, and Natalie Portman. It’s film 29 in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Following the epic battle against Thanos, Thor is thrust into another adventure when a new threat appears – Gorr, the God Butcher, who abducts the children of New Asgard in a plot to eradicate all the Gods of the universe. To battle his latest threat, Thor sets off on a journey with Korg, Valkyrie, and his old flame Dr. Jane Foster, who has gained Asgardian strength upon wielding Thor’s old hammer, to recruit fellow gods for an army to battle Gorr and rescue New Asgard’s children.

No one can deny that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a big-screen powerhouse, having raked in billions of dollars by putting iconic comic book heroes on theater screens. In more recent years, they’ve even moved into streaming series on Disney+. Chris Hemsworth debuted in the MCU as Thor Odinson way back in 2011, having played the character numerous times over the past decade. LOVE AND THUNDER is the fourth “solo” THOR film, making Thor the first Avenger to have four solo movies, with Taika Waititi reprising his role in the director’s chair from the last solo installment, THOR: RAGNAROK. This latest adventure is filled with the action, humor, musical scores, and entertaining characters and battles we’ve come to love from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, even if it films a bit formulaic and by-the-book at times.

Leading man Chris Hemsworth returns to the role that he’s most associated with. Chris Hemsworth IS Thor; no questions asked. This is the role he was born to play, bringing a believable strength and depth to this Asgardian warrior. Striking a balance between action and humor is no easy task, but Hemsworth pulls it off nicely, having chemistry of all kinds with his co-stars, and giving us a hero worth rooting for. I love this guy and I love this character, perhaps more than ever with his past character development continuing to pay off in increasingly bigger ways. Here’s hoping we see Hemsworth portray Mr. Odinson for a good many years to come. He nails it every time.

The supporting cast fares nearly as well. A few characters from earlier Marvel films have minor roles and cameos, of course, with the most noteworthy comeback being the return of Dr. Jane Foster, portrayed by Natalie Portman. I always lamented that this character was rather abruptly written out of the MCU, but here she gets her just dues, playing with superhero-level threats and holding her own. The scenes between her and Thor range from the hilarious to the emotional and heart-wrenching. It was good to see her come back to the MCU after what many people likely thought would be her last appearance. Per my usual rules of review writing, though, no spoilers for her story arc here.

Where this film shines brightest (or darkest, depending on who you ask) is its villain, Gorr the God Butcher. Christian Bale becomes the latest in a long line of actors in DC films (he portrayed Batman in three films directed by Christopher Nolan from 2005-2012) to jump ship to join a Marvel production, and after seeing this movie, one can safely say this guy plays a villain just as well as a hero. Had roles been reversed in his Batman movies and Bale had portrayed Joker, I have a feeling that portrayal would’ve resembled what we get here. The motivation and backstory are completely unoriginal, but it’s how Bale pulls off this character that sells it. Similar to Wenwu from SHANG-CHI, there’s no denying the guy’s a villain, but he’s at least got a sympathetic angle and a motivation for what he does; the prologue introducing the character is surprisingly devoid of humor for an MCU film and sets him up beautifully. When the movie’s over, he’s a villain you’re happy to have spent two hours with, leaving a lasting impression.

The music department is just as entertaining as the characters and their battles. From the opening “Marvel Studios Title Card Fanfare” being replaced by an electric guitar version to a soundtrack heavy on classic Guns N Roses songs, LOVE AND THUNDER rocks. In every sense of the words. Leave it to the always reliable Michael Giacchino to give this epic story the aural aspect it needs.

So how does the action fare? It seems like the good people at Marvel Studios always try to outdo themselves with the battle scenes in each of their movies. LOVE AND THUNDER is no exception, pitting our heroes against a god-killing madman and his drones of shadow monsters. A side trip to a godly realm even results in conflicts against literal Gods, and it’s every bit as action-packed as it is funny. One particularly haunting action sequence is even largely in black and white; quite the far cry from a universe known for atmospheres and characters that are colorful, both in a figurative and a literal sense.

It also balances action and humor particularly well. The first two THOR movies were never considered high water marks of the MCU (though I may have a softer spot for them than some), but it was when Taika Waititi joined the franchise that solo THOR movies found their groove. Thank the Asgardian gods that he’s back in the director’s chair a second time, putting his touch on one of Marvel’s most iconic heroes. LOVE AND THUNDER simultaneously has some of the most heart-wrenching and emotional moments in an MCU movie, while also packing in some of the most hilarious.

If there’s one weakness to this installment in the MCU, it’s just that – It’s another installment in the MCU. At times it feels a bit “paint by numbers,” as if the formula isn’t really being challenged to any serious degree. I was thoroughly entertained by LOVE AND THUNDER, but does it bring anything new, earth-moving, or world changing to the Marvel Cinematic Universe? The answer is no. The movie’s good enough (and I’m certainly still recommending it) but feels too “routine” at times. The film also makes the criminal mistake of reintroducing a fellow Asgardian warrior from earlier THOR movies early on, only to cast them aside, not to be seen or heard from again for the remainder of the film (could a Disney+ TV series be in the works?) Fortunately, average level MCU films are still better than the best movies of many other series and franchises.

THOR: LOVE AND THUNDER doesn’t reinvent the wheel when it comes to the modern superhero movie. It’s more of the same we’ve come to expect from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but is that really such a bad thing? It delivers in the departments of action sequences, memorable characters, humor, and everything in between. You won’t be shocked (pardon the bad pun) by LOVE AND THUNDER or find anything revolutionary about it, but you’ll be entertained. And at the end of the day, isn’t that the whole point of going to the movies? Despite its minor flaws and predictable nature, still highly recommended!

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